Senior executives say male-dominated culture is the biggest barrier to women reaching the top

March 25, 2013

New research out today (25
April 2013) among over 600 Directors, CEOs and senior executives finds that
male dominated corporate cultures are the biggest barrier to women reaching the
board. One-quarter (23 per cent) of respondents claimed this was the single
biggest barrier to progression, and over half (52 per cent) believe that today’s
corporate cultures are dramatically reducing the length of time women are
prepared stay and develop their career with their employer.

“The Balancing Act: a study of how to
balance the talent pipeline in business”,
undertaken by the Inspire board network and executive
search firm Harvey Nash, also finds that the benefits of an improved culture won’t
just be felt by women; the gains for employers to a different approach across
the whole workforce are significant. Sixty per cent of all senior executives in
the survey say their productivity would be increased if their organisations
played a more active role in helping them balance their work and non-work
lives; the majority by 10 to 25 per cent. Well over half of respondents (58 per
cent) say their productivity would rise by 10 or 25 per cent if work fitted
better with life outside the office.

To tackle this counterproductive approach to the workplace,
women respondents cited an improved culture (52 per cent), flexible working (36
per cent) and the removal of unconscious bias in the workplace (23 per cent) as
the most effective way to persuade them to stay longer. Men agreed with the top
two, but cited better investment in technology, such as video conferencing or
laptops for remote working, as their third choice (30 per cent).

Carol Rosati co-founder of Inspire and director of Harvey
Nash said: “Organisations are failing to recognise that in today’s world, employees
of all genders want different ways of working. But often the bias that creates
this male dominated culture is unintentional and unconscious. Without realising
it, senior managers often celebrate presenteeism and reward those employees who
they have the most immediate access to. A more enlightened approach to managing
all employees will help re-balance the gender in the talent pipeline, but also
create a more productive workforce and improve retention. These initiatives
need not be expensive, but the onus is on businesses to change the way they
operate to achieve these gains.”

The report also reveals that there appears to be little
appetite for change among organisations. Over half of respondents felt it would
take at least ten years before women make up one-third of private sector boards
and over 16 per cent thought it would take more than 15 years.

The survey found that just a third (34 per cent) of Boards
accurately reflect the social make-up of their organisation’s customer base,
with 60 per cent feeling they do not. Just under two-thirds (60 per cent) felt
the single most important reason to ensure women reach senior and executive
levels is because diverse executive committees are stronger.

Alexa Bailey, co-founder of Inspire and consultant at Harvey
Nash said: “The kind of activities that are seen to help an individual’s
career, such as additional networking opportunities, social events, or staying
longer in the office, are harder to participate in for anyone with
responsibilities outside of work. But if a different approach to the workplace
is adopted, everyone is equal. A diverse board is a stronger board, better able
to identify and take advantage of commercial opportunities. By letting too many
women opt out of corporate life halfway up the career ladder, organisations
risk disconnecting with their customers, weakening their competitive edge and
missing out on further opportunities. This isn’t a talent issue, it’s simply a
bottom line business issue.”

Just one in nine felt their organisation was successful at
retaining, developing and promoting women up the food chain. Despite this, the
overwhelming feeling is that gender quotas are not the answer; 67 per cent in
the survey are against the introduction of these and more are in favour of

A full copy
of the report can be obtained from 25th April 2013 the Inspire
website at:


For further information, please contact Keir Bosley / Keith
Millar at CHA PR on 020 7580 7025 or /

About the research:

Fieldwork was conducted through an online survey conducted
from January to March 2013, and reflects the views of over 600 executive level
directors, CEOs, non-executive directors and senior business leaders from a
wide range of industries and countries. There was a broadly even split between
men (42 per cent) and women (58 per cent). Respondents came from across the
globe, with 69 per cent based in the UK. In addition, this research was
supplemented by a series of one-to-one interviews with prominent business
executives and thought leaders in the field of diversity & inclusion and strategic
talent management.


Established in 2008 and supported by Harvey Nash, Inspire
provides an environment in which senior board level business women from the
private and public sectors can share and exchange ideas and experiences with
their peers. Each year, Inspire hosts events for more than 1,000 women members
made up exclusively of female board directors, Chairs, CEOs and Partners in
Private Equity and Venture Capital firms.

About Harvey Nash:

Established in 1988, Harvey Nash has
supported many of the world’s leading organisations to recruit, source and
manage the highly skilled talent they need to succeed in an increasingly
competitive and technology driven world. With 4,000 professionals in over 40 offices across the USA, Europe and Asia the Group has the reach and resources
of a global organisation, whilst fostering a culture of innovation and agility
that empowers its people to respond to constantly changing client needs. We
work with clients, both large and small, to deliver a portfolio of services:
executive search, professional recruitment and outsourcing.